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The worst band to ever play Sir Henrys.

Came across this latest post, courtesy of John McCarthy on his blog Smile and be a villain. Thought it fitted in perfect with our other posts. He had titled it  But this eternal blazon must not be To ears of flesh and blood. We prefer his subheading  – The worst band ever to play Sir Henrys. Thanks John…

 

It might have been the darkness that added to the mystique of Sir Henry’s. It might have been that the floor was un-seeable but could very much be felt. It might have been the posters strewn across the corridor in with bands’ names that seemed to be made up on the flick of a coin. (Flick of a coin could be a good name for a band). It might have been the flagon of cider that we got somebody to buy for us in Galvin’s on the Bandon Road on the way into town. It might have been the neo-punks with hair to the ceiling and the Jesus and Mary Chain scrawled across the back of a parka.

I’d meet my cousins there. Damien and Raymond Mullally. The Mullally’s were music royalty in Cork. Their friend Morty McCarthy was the coolest person I knew. We went to watch bands. My friends, first Gary Gibbons, later Derek Coffey and Ian Flanagan and later still I dragged my girlfriend, now my wife, Fiona to watch bands.the smaller the better. The more obscure the better.

I loved the Cork bands. 3355409s with their little guitarist with a bumblebee jumper, Idol Joy, Porcelain Tears, Cypress, Mine! who should have been huge, Belsonic Sound and so many that came and went with not even a Fanning Session to their name. My childhood friend Kieran Cotter worked as a roadie for Cypress, Mine! and later the brilliant Blue in Heaven. He also got to play with Cork Super group The Mad Dancing Bastards From Hell. Another friend Patrick Healy played with his band there. (The name of the band is gone). The How and Why Insects went to my school. Everything was close, immediate but still so far away. The barrier from audience to stage was enormous. I needed to hurdle it. i needed to be in a band.

Gary Gibbons and I formed a band. Gary could play. His father Paul played in a Jazz band. Gary had some gorgeous guitars. At 17, I could hold a note no better than I could hold my beer. Gary sang. I wrote horrendous agitprop lyrics.I learned how to play the Bass guitar. I bought a Bass and an Amp from Small Paul in Crowley’s on MacCurtain street. I got lessons from Sinead Lohan’s dad in Greenwood out the road in Togher. He told me I had no rhythm. I didn’t care. I had the Bass. I had the trenchcoat. I had a glittery shirt. We found a drummer, Ivan Murray. we found a rehearsal room in Togher Boy’s School. We called ourselves The 5 O’ Clock Heroes after the Jam song. We were ready to go. We played a couple of talent shows. Sean O’ Neill in Henry’s was allowing bands play on Tuesday nights when Henry’s would otherwise be empty. We were in.

My brother arranged for Don Creedon to do sound for us. We were booked. We made some posters. We had twelve songs ready. Forty of our friends, all underage came to watch us and we played Henry’s. Don Creedon said we were the worst band he ever heard. We didn’t care. We played Henry’s. Then we broke up. I haven’t touched a Bass Guitar since. Gary and Ivan are still paying together with Gary’s brother Ivan. They are good. I wasn’t.

But I played Sir Henry’s.

 

Burning Embers (1986 Session)

The Fanning Sessions Archive

Image via IrishRock.org Image via IrishRock.org

I’ve been trawling the archive for something vaguely related to Sir Henry’s in Cork, the subject of an upcoming exhibtion at UCC Library hence today’s post. Burning Embers were Sean O’Neill (vocals), John Poland (guitars), Niall Macken (keyboards), Mel Poland (bass), Gordon Ashe (drums). They recorded this session for Dave Fanning on November 17th 1986.

Champagne & Toffee (1986)

Waiting (1986)

The Blood Game (1986)

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“If you couldn’t persuade Henry’s, you didn’t matter where it mattered” – Colm O Callaghan

This guest post is courtesy of Colm O Callaghan – somebody who has been supportive of this project literally since the start.  Our first email was from him, wishing us well and offering any assistance and he has been true to his word. Thanks for all your help Colm.

And now he has written this for us. I hope you enjoy

 

I can’t remember the first time I set foot inside Sir Henrys and I can’t remember the last time either but I remember clearly where the rose was sown.

I was a weedy teenager during the summer of 1982 [and for several other summers thereafter] when my father arranged a part-time job for me, my first. For eight weeks I stacked shelves and packed shopping bags, without any great distinction, in Roches Stores on Patrick Street. On my first day I was assigned to the biscuit aisle ;- on my second, to stack sanitary towels in the female toiletries section. I was asked by one of my co-workers – an older man whose hands were pock-marked with Indian ink – if I’d ever been ‘inside’. I was a teenage boy from Blackpool and, even thirty years ago, it was an obvious question.

Before the end of the summer I’d struck up with another pair of part-timers who made like they knew their music. One was obsessed with a nascent Dublin group called U2 and appeared to have form. He wore a bouffant centre parting in his hair, managed regularly by twin combs, clearly in honour of the band’s drummer. The other seemed to know quite a bit about Ireland’s darker underbelly. Dave Fanning, Hot Press, hash. Such things.

There was loose banter in the store-room one day about Sir Henry’s, with which both of my colleagues were familiar. There was a framed U2 poster to one side of the venue, apparently. Signed by the band. U2 liked Cork and someone’s relation helped them to set up their drums. I’d regularly seen Sir Henry’s from the outside. Hadden’s Bakery on North Main Street was on my family’s regular beat and, in the days long before paid parking, we’d frequently pull the car up outside. The place looked like a right toilet, but I never imagined that it would look even worse on the inside. 

Myself and my friends were regulars at Sir Henry’s from around 1987 until 1994, when I left Cork for good. It was somewhere we went to hear live music and see bands, good, bad and often un-naturally ugly. Back then, when we knew nothing and cared less, music meant the world. And Sir Henry’s was one of the foundation blocks.

The place hosted some truly memorable nights and some remarkable live shows and, even at a distance of twenty five years I can clearly recall the most minor moments of some of the better ones.

In terms of Irish bands, it was in Sir Henry’s that Power of Dreams, The Sultans, The Franks, Engine Alley, The Subterraneans and Therapy? flowered in their pomp. It was in Henry’s too that arguably the finest and most perpetually ignored of them all, Into Paradise, played like their necks were on the line to a meagre scattering of, maybe, fifty people at a push. If anything captured their career in a snapshot, it was the continued indifference of Cork audiences. If you couldn’t persuade Henry’s, you didn’t matter where it mattered. Sir Henry’s could be cold and unforgiving and, while many were called, only the few were eventually annointed.

The Blue Angels being a particular case in point. Blue In Heaven were contemporaries and peers of Into Paradise from Churchtown, a suburb in South Dublin. A dirty and easily detonated live act, they found particular favour in Cork, and amongst the Sir Henry’s frontline especially.

Most of Blue In Heaven eventually evolved into a more considered and mildly diverting sub-species, The Blue Angels. But the Sir Henry’s crowd were having none of it and more or less refused to acknowledge they existed. The Blue Angels were famously sent packing for Dublin to the sound of one man clapping. They were a fickle crowd, the Henry’s lot.

But they adored their own too and I can still feel the fuzzy urgency with which my favourite Cork bands went about their thing on the live stage at Sir Henry’s [although plenty of other business was conducted off-stage too]. LMNO Pelican – who I later had the pleasure of producing – were restless, busy and catchy. I remember encountering a nervous and sensibly sober Brendan Butler for the first time, the Pelican’s drummer and heartbeat. ‘Alright player’, he opened, before heading straight to the gut of the matter :- he was chasing a critical view on a new Guadalcanal Diary compilation. We lost Brendan at a desperately young age in February, 2013 and its only right and proper that, in any potted history of Cork music, he is appropriately remembered and acknowledged. Rest easily, champ.

I concede now, as I did very openly then, to a soft-spot for local bands like The Bedroom Convention, Lift, Benny’s Head, Treehouse, Real Mayonnaise and The How And Why Insects, who later became Starchild and Crystal. These were the names that stood out then like they still do so now, a rangey peleton of domestiques in support of the prestige riders, lead by Cypress, Mine !, Burning Embers and The Belsonic Sound.

Of the blow-ins, my strongest recollections include live shows by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Pavement, The Wedding Present, Babes In Toyland, The Sisters Of Mercy and That Petrol Emotion. It still rankles that I never saw either Microdisney or The Fatima Mansions live in Sir Henry’s :- in the great traditions of Cork politics, The Fatima Mansions tended to favour De Lacy House while Microdisney [although I first saw them support Depeche Mode in The City Hall in 1982] and me just didn’t have our clocks in sync and they’d fled Ireland years before I’d ventured out of Blackpool.

But while Sir Henry’s could destroy even the most vaunted of visitors, the inverse could be true too. Transvision Vamp played there once and, to my mind, blew the place limb from limb. ‘I wanna be your dog’ roared a leery drunk from the front row at the lead singer. ‘Woof woof’, responded Wendy James, as she sank a prozzie’s heel into his snout.

To my mind, Sir Henry’s rightful reputation as the country’s best live music venue bar-none was franked and sealed over three consecutive nights during the Summer of 1991. Facilitated through the offices of Ian Wilson and his team at Radio 2FM, Cork Rock was an annual shindig that assembled fifteen of the country’s best, aspiring and unsigned bands and flashed them in short-set form to sussed audiences speckled with talent spotters flown in – on generous expenses – from Britain and elsewhere.  

The line-up in 1991 tells its own story and, among those bucks who faced the starter’s gun were The Frank And Walters, The Sultans Of Ping F.C., The Cranberries, Therapy?, The Brilliant Trees and Toasted Heretic.

It was, without question, the single most exhilirating weekend I can recall in my short, personal relationship with Sir Henry’s. And I still meet friends and acquaintances, now well into their forties and beyond, who legitimately lay claim to having been there before the finest generation of young Irish bands ever took flight with The Man.

Work subsequently took me to many more live venues all over Britain and Europe throughout the 1990s. And with a fresh perspective it was clear to me that, whatever we thought back then, Sir Henry’s was in many ways less artifice and more franchise. Every city that assumes a love of new music and a fostering of new acts has venues that sound, look and smell like Henry’s used to do at its peak. London, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Paris, New York.

In hindsight, Sir Henry’s was where the more intense kids went after they’d outgrown the secondary school disco and re-calibrated their ambitions. To me, one of the venue’s primary attractions was that it was on our doorstep [and not in Dublin] and, to those of us who, by 1986 and 1987 had grown into angry young men and women, this was of no little import.

My fellow traveller at this time was a friend I’d met in school, Philip Kennedy. During the summers from 1982 onwards, we’d started another, far more attractive form of rote learning and, in so doing, developed a love of Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, Prefab Sprout, REM and, memorably, the frenetic political jangle of McCarthy [Morty McCarthy [no relation], was the key dealer here].

We spent our evenings swapping albums, battered cassettes, taped radio programmes, bootlegs and even demos. It was through Philip [and his regular dealer, Morty] that I first heard the famous first Frank And Walters demo, a tape that genuinely blew me away and which kick-started a long-standing connection that endures to this day.

It was Philip who, while I was away in America in 1988, harrassed Ciaran O’Tuama, then manning Comet Records with Jim O’Mahony, on a regular basis about a likely release date for the second Cypress, Mine ! album. That record, which is magnificent, has still to see the light of day, although I remain hopelessly optimistic, as I always did for that band.

Phil and myself hung out into the long summer nights on the railings outside his house on Saint Mary’s Road, by Neptune Stadium, talking the big music. Or just talking big about music. In our heads we cut an artsy dash along Redemption Road as we ferried our albums, always under-arm, for everyone to see. In reality, our parents may have hoped this was all just a fad, a passing thing. Sir Henrys became a natural extension of those nights, but it wasn’t the only one. My own favourite Cork venue was Mojos. Or De Lacy House. Or The Shelter. Or, briefly, The Underground, down a side alley around the back of Roches Stores. It was there that I once saw Sindikat, one of my favourite ever Cork bands, comprised mostly of past pupils of our old school. I may even have seen The Stars of Heaven there, a band who, had their store of stellar notices converted to sales, could have retired to stud after the release of their first album, ‘Speak Slowly’. Philip passed away on April 28th, 2006. He hadn’t yet turned 40 years of age and I never hear a cracking new album or see a storming new live band without thinking of how he’d so forensically de-construct them. And he was sharp and funny with it too.

One night we encountered Margaret Dorgan on Parnell Bridge ;- she was off to see a local band, The Pretty Persuasions, in The Phoenix. Margaret shared her concerns for the band’s well-being, worried that there might be were too many ‘posers’ in the audience.

‘The only posers there’, Philip told her, ‘will be on the stage’.

 He was there at my elbow for years, through the good times and the even better times. He saw Sir Henry’s claim its many trophies and also bury a hell of a lot of bands who simply couldn’t cut muster. From wherever he is now, he knows where the bodies lie and, more importantly, why Sir Henry’s took shovels to their crowns.

Details of Exhibition & Archive on Sir Henrys Bar & Nightclub, Cork

Sir Henrys bar and nightclub, located on South Main Street, Cork (1978 – 2003) was renowned locally, nationally and internationally for its vibrant music scene. What are your memories of the time and the club?

This summer UCC Library is mounting an exhibition to document the distinctive history of this legendary and iconic Cork city music venue. It is the intention of this exhibition to establish an archive relating to Sir Henrys and the related popular music scene in Cork.

This exhibition is opening at UCC Library Wednesday July 9 and will run until Saturday September 27. It will be held in the exhibition space in the foyer of UCC Library and will be open to the general public.

The objective of the exhibition, curated by Martin O Connor, (UCC Library) Stevie Grainger (Radio Presenter & DJ at Sir Henrys) and Eileen Hogan (School of Applied Social Studies, UCC), is to begin the process of creating a permanent archive of popular music in UCC Library starting with Sir Henrys and branching out into Cork’s wider popular music scene.

The aim is to systematically collect artefacts relating to Sir Henrys. This is very much a hidden history and our aim is to collect it and preserve it for future interested parties.

Oral histories will also be collected as part of archive – these stories will provide a rare insight into the lived experience of Sir Henrys from the perspective of key actors in the scene. The inclusion of oral histories will document these memories for posterity. The exhibition will illuminate in a fun and accessible way a sense of what Sir Henrys was like and why it was significant to the people of Cork and beyond – in short, its emotional, aesthetic, musical, cultural and historical value and legacy.

The Sir Henrys Archive and exhibition will contain donations from the family of the founder of the club, employees from the very beginning of the club, when it was a restaurant and bar and various other staff from over the years as well as bands and DJs who played there. And of course from people who attended the club over the years.

A series of exciting public seminars and talks and other events will be held throughout the duration of the exhibition, details of which will be announced in due course.

Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/sirhenrys.exhibition

Twitter: @sirhenrys2014

 

Contact Details:

To donate material or for more information on donating please contact Martin O Connor at martin.oconnor@ucc.ie

021 490 2111

For further information on UCC Library Special Collections & Archives or PR queries related to the exhibition or Archive contact Crónán Ó Doibhlin at

c.odoibhlin@ucc.ie or

086 319 9417

We Play Here Outtakes

We Play Here Outtakes

With thanks to Eoghan O’Sullivan of We Play Here and www.thepointofeverything.com/ 

One of the features in issue one of We Play Here was a piece looking back at the ‘glory days’ of Cork music, when Henry’s was the best club in the country, when the Frank & Walters and Sultans of Ping could do no wrong and when it seems like a world renowned band was playing the city every week. In the end we talked to Jim Morrish, Jim Comet, Stevie Grainger and Joe Kelly. One of the people who we were constantly told to get onto was Shane Fitzsimons, who had put on gigs around Cork throughout the 90s, from Pavement to Mercury Rev. Word, page and time restraints meant the interview didn’t make it into WPH 1, so we’ve decided to stick it up in its entirety here. It was done over email on November 11, 2013.  

Irish Times article: Digging for gold at Sir Henry’s again

Irish Times article: Digging for gold at Sir Henry’s again

Jim Carroll, Irish Times, September 18, 2013

In Cork, Sir Henry’s is the nostalgia kick which never grows old. Even now, a decade after that seminal club closed down and the entire complex was demolished, it’s still the starting point and often the full stop in many conversations involving music around the city.  A review of Raymond Scannell’s ‘Deep’ –  a play inspired by Sir Henrys.